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Lily Pond park idea advances

GILFORD — The Board of Selectmen last night encouraged a group of private citizens to proceed with exploring the development of 2.9 acres along Rte. 11-C (Lily Pond Road) at the northeast corner of Lily Pond as a park.

Attorney Doug Hill of the Conservation Commission explained that the parcel is one of four totaling 145 acres, which in 2006 were placed under conservation easements to mitigate or offset the loss of wetlands incurred by the expansion of the Laconia Municipal Airport runway. The property is owned by the City of Laconia, but lies in the Town of Gilford, which holds the easement, and falls under the joint authority of the city and Laconia Airport Authority in accord with the rules and regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The New Hampshire Department of Safety once used the parcel as a fire training facility. The land was cleared and stumped and a graveled access road and parking area constructed, along with three buildings, which have been removed.

Robert C. Brown, who with Steve Whalley of HK Powersports and Diane Terrill, manager of the Laconia Airport, is pursuing the project, told the board that his intention is to provide an alternative to the strip of shoreline to the south, which shoulders Lily Pond Road and is directly in line with the airport runway, where people congregate to fish and sail model boats. He said that with parking on both sides of the road and people crossing the road underneath the flight path created a very unsafe situation.

The conceptual plan for the park includes several fishing piers, a launch ramp and restroom, but leaves most of the parcel as open space with picnic tables. An off-road parking lot would be placed on the opposite side of Lily Pond Road.

Hill stressed that the plan is only conceptual, but said that any development of the parcel would require amending the conservation easement, which in turn would require the approval of the N.H. Attorney General. "There are a whole bunch of steps," he said, noting that the city, town, N.H. Department of Environmental Services, Attorney General and perhaps the FAA all have an interest in the property. Hill told the board that Conservation Commission, which administers the conservation easement, last week voted in principle to amend the easement to further the project.

Although Selectman Richard Grenier said "I have concerns," neither of his colleagues — Gus Benevides and John O'Brien, who chairs the board — expressed reservations. "The majority recognizes you can move forward," O'Brien said.

Earlier this week, Mayor Ed Engler of Laconia, who also serves as chairman of Laconia Airport Authority, outlined the project for the city councilors, which raised no objections to pursuing it.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 01:25

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Judge rules prosecution failed to connect woman to Barnstead marijuana plants

LACONIA — Judge Jim Carroll this week dismissed a case against an alleged Barnstead marijuana grower after her attorney successfully argued that the prosecution couldn't connected her to the pot found in a vacant apartment.

Ashley Wittham, 27, of Northwood, was one of two people charged by the Belknap County Sheriff's Department with one count of possession of marijuana and one felony count of manufacturing marijuana after two deputies found pot plants and growing equipment in a 10 Barnstead Drive apartment the two formerly occupied.

The deputies were there to followup on an eviction notice issued to Wittham and her roommate David McNeil, 29, also of Northwood.

The sheriff's found the home had been vacated.

According to testimony offered in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Monday by one of the sheriff's office deputies during her probable cause hearing, the two found the landlady and a locksmith waiting for them.

Testimony indicated they knocked and got no answer. They announced themselves and entered to make sure no one was there. The testifying deputy said they cleared one side of the house but when the went into the right side of they found a closed closet door.

When they checked the closet to make sure no one was in there, they found seven marijuana plants each about three feet tall and some growing equipment along with fertilizer, books about growing marijuana and other items consistent with pot manufacturing.

The sheriff's left a Barnstead officer there to got to the police station and get a search warrant.

Wittham's attorney Stephen Jeffco waived cross examination of the sheriff's deputy and instead made a verbal motion to dismiss the felony manufacturing charge saying the sheriff's department couldn't connect his client to the person who was renting the apartment.

Carroll agreed and dismissed the case saying the sheriff's department never linked Wittham to the marijuana or the apartment.

The case against McNeil was not prosecuted.

Both cases can still be considered by the Belknap County Attorney's Office and presented to a grand jury for possible indictment.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 01:16

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Money for Belmont High football coming from 'Friends', not taxpayers

BELMONT — Superintendent Maria Dreyer clarified for the school board and the voters Tuesday night that Shaker Regional School District's portion of the money to field a cooperative high school football team will come from money raised exclusively by the Friends of Belmont Football.

She said in 2014-2015, the Friends will pay their portion of the two-year agreement directly to the Gilford School District. In 2015-2016 the money will be part of the Shaker Regional School District's budget as a pass-through line item used for accounting purposes only.

The Memorandum of Understand between the two school districts and the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association specifies that the cost to Shaker for the first year of the program is $7,500. So far the Friends of Belmont Football have raised over $10,000, said Eric Shirley, one of the founders of the group.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 01:06

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Responding to complaint that Bike Week is starting late this year, council will allow properly permitted beer tents to open 2 days early

LACONIA — A quirk of the calendar has prompted the City Council to invite the operators of so-called beer tents at Motorcycle Week to apply for special event permits, which will allow them to serve during the two days before the opening of the rally on Saturday, June 14.

Each and every year, Motorcycle Week begins on the second full weekend in June, which most often means that it ends on the third Sunday of June — Father's Day. However, in those years like this one, when June begins on a Sunday, the rally begins rather than ends on Father's Day weekend.

Since many vendors and bikers associate the last day of the rally with Father's Day, confusion arises when the two fail to coincide.

Recently Bill "The Boss" Niland, who owns and operates the Chop Shop Pub in Seabrook and the Beer Garden at the Weirs Beach Drive-In during the rally, wrote to city officials, calling attention to "a serious issue" with the rally. "It has been clear to me that the 'Regular Joe Biker' has no idea that the Laconia Bike Week dates have been changed for this years 91st annual," he wrote. He recalled when the rally last began on Father's Day weekend, in 2008, rally-goers booked rooms for the wrong week and, he claimed, have not returned. "Should this happen again this year," he warned, ""I am in fear that it would be another nail in the coffin to an already declining event."

Niland suggested opening his beer garden, with entertainment, on Thursday and Friday, before the rally begins on Saturday, June 14. "This would at least those who on the wrong week a small taste of Bike Week events so that their vacation not be a total loss," he explained.

Planning Director Shanna Saunders, who chairs the Motorcycle Technical Review Committee/Special Events Review Committee, told the council that the committee approved Niland's request and recommended allowing the operators of beer tents at the Lobster Pound, Looney Bin, Broken Spoke and Marketplace to apply for special events permits to open on Thursday, June 12 and Friday 13. After some discussion, the council agreed and at the same allowed gypsy vendors, who purchase a permit to open on Friday, to operate on Thursday as well at no extra cost.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 01:02

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